Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-335-21684-7
Contemporary Romance, 2018
Some stories are awesome, others are terrible. Martha Kennerson’s The Heiress’s Secret Romance, however, falls into the most wretched category of stories: it feels utterly pointless unless we count its existence as a means for some money to flow into the pockets of both the author and the publisher. Given how Kimani is now dancing with the dodos in heaven, I doubt the money amounts to much, so even that point isn’t much of one. This one feels so much like a book that came to be through decisions made by people who only care that this story has all the tropes but none of anything else that constitutes a story.
The story is basically a familiar one: Kathleen Winston is an investigator with the OSHA, and she goes undercover as an OSHA trainee to investigate the apparently shady antics of Kingsley Oil & Gas. This is after her boss closes the case, so I guess the OSHA is now a Chuck Norris movie-style operations – you turn into a vigilante when your boss says something you don’t agree with, woo-hoo. She falls in love with the 29-year old VP Morgan Kingsley. Oh, what will happen when the woman-mistrusting hero discovers that he’s rubbing up against another woman who isn’t telling him the truth?
First off, the title of this story. What does it even mean? Our heroine is an heiress – which has nothing to do at all with the plot. Hence, this story looks suspiciously like something dragged out of the author’s drawer of old stories with the heiress thing shoehorned in to make this a part of a series.
Worse, what seems like a simple gimmick ends up compromising the story in significant ways. The heroine’s character arc here is that she spends a lot of time burying herself in work, to the point of avoiding her family, and in the end, she learns that there is more to life than work. If I overlook the fact that “more” in this case refers to a hero’s penis, that arc could have been interesting… except in this case, the heroine being an heiress actually works against that arc. Imagine if the heroine had been very poor while growing up, and now she works hard because she didn’t want to go hungry ever again. That might have been a compelling motivation that makes the heroine more sympathetic.
However, because Kathleen doesn’t need to work, her motivation to put work over family and everything else just makes her look neurotic and sad. There is no reason to root for her to succeed, or be at the edge of my seat if she fails, because no matter what happens, she has nothing to lose. If she loses her job, only her ego would be bruised, and she could burn a few hundred dollar bills and rub the ashes over the bruise to provide some relief. If she succeeds, well, hot rich girl lands hot rich boy – now, that is something I’ve never read before, how thrilling.
Thus, by making the heroine an heiress, the author has given me absolutely no reason to get emotionally invested in the story.
The whole “Is Kingsley Oil & Gas being a terrible employer?” thing is, of course, suspense-free because I don’t think that there is any romance reader who would believe even for a second that a family full of sequel baits would ever be portrayed in a less-than-saintly light. The conflict inevitably boils down to how the hero’s ex is a cheating, lying ho-bag and how now we must all bend ourselves backward to make sure that poor crybaby Morgan will never ever has his heart bruised again or he will just die, the wee thing. Protect the penis, it’s the most important thing in the universe!
Secondly, the title again – what secret romance? The romance here is another one that is humped along to the finish line by the cheery-creepy enthusiasm of the secondary characters in wanting to see the hero and the heroine hook up, so I have no idea where the secretive part is supposed to be. The hero learns of the heroine’s real job late in the story, and it is his mother that basically hauls the two kids back together and tell them to start making out or die. Why can’t the main characters sort out the issues on their own? Who knows, but I can only imagine the faces of the lawyers a decade or so down the road when these two announce that they are divorcing because Mommy is dead and hence isn’t around to instruct them on how to make a marriage work.
Thirdly, lastly, the author’s narrative. This story is full of weird and bizarre tangents. My favorite is how early on the author tells me that the heroine’s father is Creole and loves to converse in French. That’s nice, but the entire page spent to letting me know of this is pointless as her father’s conversational preferences have absolutely nothing to do with the story. Hilariously, the entire conversation is narrated in English, without even a token French term of endearment tossed in here and there, so in the end there is absolutely no difference as to whether her father prefers to talk in Urdu, Portuguese, or whatever – the story remains the same, the conversation remains the same, and the author has wasted an entire page on a pointless thing. This and various other scenes make me wonder whether the author is just putting in words on the page to pad the word count.
Also, the characters here tend to launch in stilted exposition rather than natural-seeming conversations, and most of the things they lecture one another are of the “We all should already know this, but let’s rehash everything in a robotic manner anyway for the readers to catch up!” type.
In the end, The Heiress’s Secret Romance is a soulless, joyless read that feels a lot like something cobbled together from a series of corporate decisions made by people with little invested concern in making a romance story work. The tropes are all here, but nobody seems to care that they don’t fit well together to give a coherent big picture. It’s not even bad enough to be memorable. This is an absolutely pointless story that has nothing to offer and no reason to even justify the paper it is printed on, much less the $6.50 people are expected to pay for it.